Finding My Stride

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Sylvia Grove & Lynn Palermo

I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. I blink the sweat from my eyes and stare again, hard. The bus is still there behind a thin row of trees, zipping up the flat Belgian highway, as sure as I can see its destination sign in the distance: YPRES 5 km.

“Lynn—Lynn, look! A bus to Ypres!”

I glance at my companion, Lynn Palermo, associate professor of French at Susquehanna University. She adjusts her hiking pack around her waist and faces the distance stoically. No reply.

Either she hasn’t heard me, or she’s silently telling me to suck it up.

It’s July 1, and we have only been walking for four hours—I know because I’ve been counting—on what is supposed to be a 15-day hiking trip along the western front of World War I. The idea was conceived in 2006 during finals week at Susquehanna with two motivations: Lynn hasn’t been backpacking in France since her youth (I never have), and neither Lynn nor I fully grasp World War I. Exploring the western front by foot seems like the most intimate way to give us a better perspective and provide us with some adventure along the way. Ypres is the first on a list of World War I battle sites that are marked on the map in Lynn’s backpack.

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